Thursday, July 16, 2020

ARE JOURNALISTS ALLOWED TO ATTEND DISTRICT TRIBUNAL PROCEEDINGS?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

According to section 24 subsection (2) of the Constitution, “All proceedings of every court and proceedings relating to the determination of the existence or extent of civil rights or obligations before any other authority, including the announcement of the decision of the court or other authority, shall be held in public.” Courts include district tribunals according to section 120 of the Constitution.

This means members of the public, be they parties, journalists or not, can attend the proceedings of any court, including a district tribunal.

There are exceptional cases defined by the proviso of this section when the court may decide to sit in camera and this must be done judiciously. There is no need to obtain permission from the Chief Justice to facilitate the attendance of the proceedings of any case.

In short, every person is entitled to attend proceedings without hindrance and any holder of judicial office who so directs a journalist to obtain a letter from the Chief Justice before he or she can attend his court, is not speaking the language of the Constitution.

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We are ushering in a new era of delivery of justice and the Supreme Court has amply demonstrated its independence. Holders of judicial office must move away from the old era of dispensation of justice and begin to deliver justice without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

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